Written By: Ms.Gayatri Mahar, Assistant Manager, Climate Change


At the climate conference (COP21) held in December 2015, 196 countries adapted the first ever universal, legally binding global climate deal – “the Paris Agreement”.  The agreement set out a long term goal of limiting the global temperature rise to well below 20 C and to pursue efforts to keep it to limit temperature increase to 1.50 C above pre industrial levels considering that this will significantly reduce the risks and impact of climate change. The other emphasis was to enhance the ability to adapt to the adverse impact of climate change and foster climate resilience and low emission development to sustain food production system. The other goals discussed was to make the finance flows consistent create a pathway for low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development. The agreement will be available for signature at the UN headquarters for one year from April 22, 2016 to April 21, 2017. The agreement is duCover Story 1e to enter into force in 2020 after 55 countries that accounts for at least 55% of global emission have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.


The parties agreed to take actions for Mitigation to limit global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius to significantly reduce the risks and impact of climate change. Parties agreed to reach global peaking of emission as soon as possible recognizing that developing countries will take longer time for this. Thereafter, countries will undertake rapid emission reduction in accordance with best available science.


The role of adaptation towards enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change is well recognized with a view to contributing to sustainable development and achieving the long term temperature goal. Recognizing the importance of averting, minimizing and addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change the parties agreed to enhance cooperation and understanding, action and support in different areas such as early warning systems, emergency preparedness, resilience of communities, livelihoods and ecosystems. With regard to the finance issue developed countries agreed to mobilize at least USD 100 billion a year from 2020 for mitigation and adaptation while significantly increasing adaptation finance from current levels and to further provide appropriate technology and capacity-building support. The agreement proposes a robust transparency, accountability and stock take system to track the progress of long term goal. Accordingly, countries will come together every five year to set more ambitious targets and will report to each other and the public how they are implementing their targets. It is assumed that countries should update or revise INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) by 2020.


The agreement is welcomed by different Government, climate experts, civil society organisations around the world. The Indian delegates (MoEFCC, Government, civil society organisations, climate networks and media) role in the conference was overwhelmed. India along with other developing nations pressurized developed nations to consider some of the key elements like adaptation, loss and damage, climate justice and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities in the agreement important for vulnerable developing countries. However, some experts had a different take, some calling it weak and toothless. The most critical element in the agreement is financial commitments from developed countries to provide finance of $100 billion a year by 2020, but this has been considered ambiguous and without a clear roadmap by many experts.


In Indian context, when its economy depends on climate sensitive sectors and long coastline where majority of the population lives in, already facing regular loss and damage of life and assets. The economic damage and losses in India from climate change is projected around 1.8% of its GDP annually by 2050 (An Asian Development Bank study). The agreement does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation from developed countries for any loss and damage. In this scenario adaptation should be top priority for India, assess future loss and damage and sector specific adaptation plans, strategies, technologies and finance. India’s requirement for adaptation actions in agriculture, forestry, fisheries infrastructure, water resources and ecosystems will be around USD 206 billion between 2015 and 2030. India might face problems in mobilizing fund for adaptation action as the agreement does not talk about adaptation finance. Thus, the question remains how and from where the support for adaptation will be mobilized (need public finance for adaptation action).


India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) as the global combat against climate change promises for reduction of emissions intensity per unit of GDP by 33 – 35% by 2030, compared to 2005 and promised to generate 40% of its electricity from “non-fossil fuel based energy resources by 2030 with the help of transfer of technology and low cost international finance. While India has ambitions target of generating clean energy by 2030, its dependency on the cheap energy sources like coal will remains for decades to fulfill electricity demands of million poor households and for the industries. India has already set a coal production target of 1.5 billion metric tons by 2020 to resolve the shortfall in coal supply in electric power sector. The agreement will pressurize India to reduce use of fossil fuels. Adding to it, as per the agreement, the finance flow will be consistent with low emissions and climate-resilient development. Thus, India might face problem in finding global funds for electricity and other industrial sectors dependent on coal.


The agreement talks about updating the emission targets in every five year which will put more pressure on India and other developing countries to take on more mitigation targets. So far India’s climate actions are largely financed from domestic resources. A preliminary estimate suggests that at least USD 2.5 trillion (at 2014-15 prices) will be required for meeting India’s climate change actions between now and 2030.A substantial scaling up of the climate action plans would require greater resources both financial and technological for successful implementation of long term mitigation and adaptation targets.


Overall, in our understanding, the climate deal will give directions to the policy makers to prioritise and take sectoral actions. Also, it will help in advocating at different national, region and local level to put pressure to consider climate resilient development actions so that the target of net zero emission can be achieved by the second half of the century as visualized in the agreement. We strongly feel the need of translating the global policy decisions mentioned in the agreement into the national and sub-national action plans. Also, capacity building of all the stakeholders at different level ranging from macro to micro level involving Government, experts, civil society organisation and media would support proper implementation of domestic emission reduction targets to deal with the adverse effects of climate change. Above all these ambitions and strong political will is the key to tackle climate change and make resilient societies. 


Key Features of COP 21 – UN Climate Conference

  • To keep global temperature increase “well below” 2C (3.6F) and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5C


  • To limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100


  • To review each country’s contribution to cutting emissions every five years so they scale up to the challenge


  • For rich countries to help poorer nations by providing “climate finance” to adapt to climate change and switch to renewable energy. $100bn a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020, with a commitment to further finance in the future.